27 Congress members sign letter demanding an investigation on the human rights and political situation in Honduras

Posted on June 25, 2010

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The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton:

Next Monday, June 28th, marks the anniversary of the coup in Honduras. We write to express our continuing concern regarding the grievous violations of human rights and the democratic order which commenced with the coup and continue to this day. We recognize the challenges facing President Logo and welcome efforts to reconcile the country and strengthen the rule of law that are consistent with international human rights and humanitarian law.

It is our belief that the State Department should rise to this occasion and assign Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner to visit Honduras and make a prompt assessment of what is occurring there with regards to human and political rights. Without an early and accurate report, we would be reluctant to see US support for Honduras continue without significant restrictions.

During your recent visit to Latin America, you asserted that Honduras has made progress since President Lobo took office in January 2010. However, it is our view that political violence continues to wrack Honduras, and insecurity grips much of the population. Reports indicate that many Honduras fear for their safety, lack confidence in the rule of law, and remain subject to the whims of those in power, including architects and holdovers from last year´s coup that are protected by a climate of impunity.

In this year alone, nine journalists in Honduras have been murdered, and several more have been tortured, kidnapped and suffered death threats, including threats against their families. Also, there are cases of reporters who have been forced to leave the country due to these threats, some of them looking for asylum here in the US and Canada. Members of social movements who oppose or criticize the government have been victims of violence and subject to ongoing intimidation. Several judges have been summarily dismissed for raising principled questions about the legality of the coup. Against this backdrop, a number of Army officials suspected of being involved in the coup have been appointed to executive positions in the Lobo government. Most notably, General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, Commander-in-Chief to the Armed Forces at the time of the coup, is now the head of Hondutel,the national telecommunications company. The appointment of Velásquez, a primary actor in the coup, is troubling because in his new position he controls the country´s telephone, Internet and fax lines at a time when human rights advocates and political opposition leaders fear they are being persecuted for their activism.

President Lobo is eager, in his words, to bury the past. But these violations of human rights and democratic order persist in Honduras on his watch. At the same time, Honduras has failed to live up to its commitments regarding the Truth Commission and establishing a government of national unity, which the US last year deemed as prerequisites for Honduras being treated again with the legitimacy of a democratic government.

We strongly believe US policymakers need an accurate assessment of the current human rights situation in Honduras in order to formulate policies that can support the Lobo administration´s efforts to strengthen the rule of law and return the democratic order to the country. We strongly and respectfully recommend that you direct Assistant Secretary Posner to visit Honduras for the purpose of collecting facts on the current human and political rights situation and reporting back to you and us as promptly as possible, including but not limited to the following issues:

1. The murders, assaults, threats and exiling of journalists.
2. The murders, assaults, threats and exiling of members of the Resistance Movement, labor unions and the Afro, Indigenous and LGBT communities.
3. The dismissal by the Supreme Court of judges who opposed the coup.
4. The resources and mandate available to Ana Pineda, special advisor to President Lobo on human rights, to carry out her work.
5. The potential for the Truth Commission to lead to justice and reconciliation.

The Congress had made a clear and candid assessment by the US Department of State concerning conditions on the ground in Honduras as they are–not as we might wish or imagine them to be. Our country cannot claim to uphold the democratic values at stake in Honduras or the region more broadly, and we in Congress cannot countenance additional support fo the government of Honduras, without a reliable report about the status of political and human rights as they prevail under President Lobo and a plan for addressing these conditions effectively.

James P. McGovern
Janice D. Schakowsky
Sam Farr
Michael M. Honda
Barbara Lee
Raúl Grijalva
Donald M. Payne
James L. Oberstar
John Conyers, Jr.
Chellie Pingree
John W. Olver
George Miller
Richard E. Neal
Gwen Moore
Tammy Baldwin
Donna F. Edwards
Michael E. Capuano
Danny K. Davis
Stephen F. Lynch
James P. Moran
Edward J. Markey
Bill Delahunt
Rosa L. DeLauro
John F. Tierney
José E. Serrano
Betty McCollum
Bobby L. Rush

RELATED: Original letter with signatures and a Spanish translation available here: http://www.quotha.net/node/1037